Last night wasn’t a very productive one for the Braves. With their magic number down to three, the Washington Nationals took care of business against the Cardinals, and the Phillies were able to steal the first of three at SunTrust Park. However, not all was lost. Atlanta was able to set a franchise record, and Ronald Acuña inched closer to the elusive 40/40 club in the final inning.
The night started splendidly for the Braves, who scored two runs on two, two-out hits off of Vince Velasquez in the first inning. Atlanta was 77-22 when scoring first heading into last night and had their hottest pitcher on the bump.
Dallas Keuchel was near perfect – like he has been – through three innings, holding the Phillies scoreless. At that point, he had allowed four earned runs in his last 40 innings pitched. Then the Phillies exploded in the fourth, scoring five runs on five straight hits, including two home runs. Two of the singles never left the infield. However, both of the longballs came off of hanging breaking pitches that Keuchel had been able to minimize over the previous six weeks. The southpaw, who had some not-so-subtle jabs towards Phillies management following his last outing, was only able to make it through five innings, allowing eight hits and five earned runs.
The rest of the game was fairly silent from both sides until the eighth inning when the Braves bats finally woke up as they do so often. Brian Snitker pinch-hit Adeiny Hechavarria for Matt Joyce who cut the lead to two with a solo shot. That home run was the 236th dinger of the season for Atlanta, breaking the franchise record. Then Snitker subbed Duvall for Hechavarria in a double-switch, and Duvall led off the ninth with a towering blast way over the left-field wall. Statcast said it went 425 feet, but it sure looked like it went much further. Nonetheless, it gave the Braves a chance to tie it with Ronald Acuña coming to the plate and nobody out.
Hector Neris would wisely issue a free pass to Atlanta’s phenom, who proceeded to quickly steal second for his 37th swiped bag of the year. Acuña now has 39 homers and 37 steals. With ten games remaining, it is something all of Braves Country will be monitoring the rest of the way, as he aims to become the fifth member in MLB history to join the 40/40 club.
The stolen base set up the Braves perfectly to send the game into extras. Ozzie Albies did his job by moving the runner to third with a groundball to first. Then Neris walked Freddie Freeman after a long battle. However, the Phillies closer was able to freeze Josh Donaldson with a hanging splitter for the second out of the inning, and Nick Markakis popped up to end the game. It was far from an ideal night at SunTrust Park, but the Braves could still potentially clinch the division on Thursday with a couple of wins and a Nationals loss. They aim to bounce back tonight with Julio Teheran on the mound against Zach Eflin.